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Friday, April 22, 2005
Students react to RIAA, MPAA lawsuits

UMass Legal Services says that some of the students have already sought advice.

"The recording industry is very meticulous at what they do," said Steve Mammarella, a Legal Assistant at Legal Services. Last week, both the RIAA and the MPAA filed lawsuits against college students who illegally download music and movies on the "Internet 2 hub" (i2hub) network. The RIAA disclosed that UMass had 25 students who were being sued, while the MPAA would not release that information.

Even though college students were the targets of this round of lawsuits, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman said in an online chat that his company is not specifically after students. "College students are not the primary target. Of the lawsuits brought to date, we've sued a relatively small percentage of students as compared to the general public," he said.

Sherman also said that his company sent out letters to 140 universities informing their presidents about the downloading problems on their campus. Since the legal process started last week, Mammarella said that now is the time that students should take advantage of Legal Services.

Once the student has received the subpoena, they have a short period of time in which they can "quash" it, Mammarella said. Quashing a supine is when the student tries to say that the respective industry does not have grounds for their information- like what they have downloaded and their IP addresses.

According to Mammarella, Legal Services has talked to some students who have received letters from the RIAA and MPAA. He said that lawsuits can demand up to $10,000 per song downloaded. Sherman said in his Internet chat that the average user had 2,300 MP3 files and one user had 13,600 MP3's.

Many students at the university voiced their displeasure of the lawsuits as they wondered why the industries would go after college students, who usually do not have much money for a legal settlement. "I think it's crazy," said Kyle Murphy, a senior civil engineering major. Murphy said that he didn't know that downloaded music was illegal, and that he hasn't seen any warnings in any of the programs, and that can be a cause of the problem.

"If you download Kazaa, there's no warning," he said. Lynne Starek, a senior civil engineering major, said that she understood why the industries are going after college students. "I can see why they're doing it. College kids are major offenders," Starek said. "However, we're not the people to sue." "I wouldn't even know it was illegal," she said, adding that she thought it was okay to use programs like i2hub.

"I don't think that it's fair that they are actually trying to get money from college students," said Youri Zabbal, a linguistics graduate student. "There isn't an easy answer," he said. "The whole thing is a mess to begin with." Alex Borcau, a senior communications and Spanish major, said that she thought that students could use a monthly service to download their songs. Borcau's idea is one that Sherman agreed with in his chat.

"So far, 44 schools have done deals with legitimate online music services so they can offer their students a legal way to get music," he said. Legal Services is located in 922 Campus Center. Lawyers operate on a sliding scale fee basis.

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